As a minor example citizens observe summer students wandering around town fully outfitted for safety while doing jobs that need to be attended to while services that some citizens feel should remain in place are reduced or eliminated. Councillors can bring up any subject with management or even in a public meeting, but the role of departmental management is not really an elected council member responsibility. Council must also take into consideration the fact that reducing or eliminating senior citizen and children’s programs that seem to be happening is a major oversight when seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population. The need to keep youngsters interested in the town even after graduation should be a priority for the future by having extraordinary programs and projects planned and operational both now and for the future.
Watching a town vehicle watering flower pots during a rainstorm might be irritating but again the responsibility of maintaining those community enhancing flower pots is that of the department heads and senior supervisors rather than councillors. People with concerns about the program and any other program could email the department responsible signing their name then send copies of the complaint to the mayor and each council member. In that way if council feels the problem needs to be dealt with it can be brought up at a council meeting or during discussions with senior staff.
Deciding on budgets after studying submissions from department heads and the staff is a council function. Keeping the cost of taxation for property owners in line while making certain the programs departments submit are needed and affordable is another role of council as a whole, not the mayor or an individual council member. The emergence of council watchdog groups as happened in Espanola since the 2010 election is a strong indication that the way the town is functioning needs to be addressed and reasoning communicated to citizens. Simply saying the people complaining are disgruntled and should not be recognized as has been the method of dealing with the complaints by the mayor, administrative staff and some councillor’s only leads to internal strife between council and taxpayers. The situation can and will eventually have an adverse for sitting councillors in the 2014 election leading to more unnecessary conflict with staff and maybe even employment insecurity.
To threaten to run for election because a taxpayer does not agree with the current council as some people have declared for the rumor mill to circulate is not a solution. Planning and declaring an election platform that encompasses the needs of the majority of voters is the formula for election success or reelection in 2014. Conversely running for council because a person simply disagrees with the current council handling of town taxes is not a platform. Taxpayers will likely not vote for a candidate with a campaign based on criticizing the current elected councillor positions.
There seems to be a great deal of unnecessary strife evident on the social media and other venues involving people wanting change. Tighter budget spending while council faces mounting expenses and reduced senior government funding is and will be a monumental future challenge. A cooperative sense of community communication needs to be considered. Domtar’s future must be taken into consideration. The company like all its competitors continues to apply for lower tax levels likely an indication that the company plans to either upgrade technology, downsize to cut expenses or worse. All scenarios necessitate long range fiscal planning by town council. Needs rather than wants must be the criteria for councillors as the province and federal government tighten funding in an effort to met escalating debt loads.
Politics in local government seems to offset service to the taxpayer similar to the workings heard daily on newscasts relating to the provincial and federal government. Change can and must begin at the municipal level. It is the easiest part of government to change and local government is the place to begin bringing all levels of government back to reality.